LSU punter Jamie Keehn isn’t getting much playing time, and he’s just fine with that.
The Tigers’ newly discovered high-powered offense has the team kicking off almost three times for every punt. James Hairston has kicked off 48 times, but Keehn has punted just 18 times.
At that pace, Keehn and LSU would punt just 36 times for the season, which would be the fewest punts by a Tigers team since the 1987 team had 35 punts.
“I’m not complaining if I’m not out there punting,” Keehn said. “We’re winning games and putting up a lot of points. I’m just staying prepared on the sideline and ready to go when needed.”
Keehn, who’s in his first season as a starter, said he talked with New Orleans Saints punter Thomas Morstead and former LSU punter Donnie Jones, who’s with the Philadelphia Eagles, about how to stay prepared during long breaks between punts.
“They’ve been helping me as far as finding a routine and staying mentally prepared, especially at times like these when the team is doing really well on offense and I’m not seeing much of the field,” Keehn said. “Staying prepared is a big thing.”
Keehn has punted just twice in each of the last two games as the Tigers have scored 41 and 59 points.
“I’m always on the sideline doing drops, kicking into the net,” Keehn said. “Every first down, whether it’s the first of the drive or the fifth, I kick into the net. Every second down, I get a few drops. On third down I’m standing next to (special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey) ready to go in of needed.”
“If we get a first down, I go through that process again. On defense, I get a couple of snaps. You never know when you’re going to be called on. We might have a three-and-out, unfortunately. If we do that, I have to flip the field for us.”
Keehn, who is averaging 40.6 yards and has had six punts downed inside the 20, has punted just once in the first quarter this season — on the first possession against Alabama-Birmingham.
Beckham keeping quiet
Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who leads the nation in all-purpose yards (228.2 per game), has chosen not to be interviewed this week.
He wasn’t available Monday, then indicated Tuesday that he would talk. LSU tweeted reporters saying Beckham would be available at the evening interview session.
But when reporters arrived, they were told Beckham wouldn’t talk.
It’s unclear why Beckham won’t do interviews, but it could be tied to the fact that LSU is playing Florida this week. In a 14-6 loss at Florida last season, Beckham had a crucial fumble that stopped a Tigers scoring threat. The following week, Beckham stopped doing interviews.
Hilliard breaks loose
The other LSU running backs have faded into the background as Jeremy Hill has taken over as the primary ball carrier. But Kenny Hilliard managed a 34-yard touchdown run in a 59-26 victory at Mississippi State last week, his longest run since a 71-yarder against Idaho in the third game last season.
“It’s been a while since I made that type of run,” Hilliard said. “For them to make the blocks at the line and spring me open on the left side was just amazing.
“I think (State) probably had eight in the box. They were pressing the line of scrimmage and I saw the (defensive) backs overflowing and I was able to bounce it to the outside.”
Hilliard said all of the running backs are befitting from LSU’s improved passing game.
“Now that we’re versatile with the run game and the passing game, it keeps defenses off balance,” Hilliard said. “Our (big) runs come off of them preparing for the pass so us backs are able to make those type of plays that Jeremy and I made.”
Hill had a career-long 69-yard touchdown run against State.
An honor for Mettenberger
Quarterback Zach Mettenberger was recognized as a Manning Award “Star of the Week” for the second time this season after throwing for 340 yards and two touchdowns against State.
Fans can vote for Mettenberger as the Manning Award Player of the Week until 11 a.m. Thursday on Facebook.
Mettenberger became the fifth quarterback in LSU history to throw for 300 yards in back-to-back games, joining Matt Flynn (2007), Rohan Davey (2001), Tommy Hodson (1989) and Jeff Wickersham (1983).
His 25 completions against the Bulldogs were the most by an LSU quarterback since Davey had 31 in the 2002 Sugar Bowl against Illinois.
Mettenberger, the Southeastern Conference Offensive Player of the Week, leads the conference and ranks fourth nationally in pass efficiency with a rating of 190.1.
Fewer flags recently
LSU has cut back on penalties the last two weeks, committing a season-low five each game and losing a season-low 27 yards last week. The Tigers committed 10 penalties against Auburn three weeks ago and 11 against Kent State the week before that, including several pre-snap penalties.
“To say we had a lot or we had a little, at the end of the day we still had them,” guard Trai Turner said. “It’s better to have a little than a lot, but we have to limit them period. Just think how much better we’d be if we didn’t have those penalties. That’s how we look at it.
“Once it gets to zero we’ll be comfortable that it’s zero, but you’re still going to stay on it to keep it at zero.”
Seeking turnover-free game
The Tigers are still looking for their first turnover-free game of the season.
“We set goals every week, and we want to take those turnovers away,” Hill said. “We’ve had some silly turnovers this whole year. We continue to do that. We want it to be zero. It’s a test we have every week to not turn it over.”